Posted on Wednesday 25 January 2017 by Ulster Business
As one of the most important driving forces of the business world in Northern Ireland, Angela McGowan is a busy woman.
She has policy to communicate to government and media, CBI members to glean opinion, direction and evidence from and a number of key areas to address in the Northern Ireland economy.
But she’s taking in all in her stride and seems to relish being in the driving seat.
“The current economic environment is extremely challenging and if anyone is going to be pointing it the right direction then I’d like to be doing it myself,” she told Ulster Business.
And no better person to do just that.
The former Danske Bank chief economist has a deep understanding of what makes the economy here tick, having explored all aspects of it in her career so far.
Having graduated in economics from Queens, she worked as a research associate in the economics department of the university before spending a number of years working in economic policy institutes on issues such as competitiveness in a variety of policy areas.
From there she joined Danske Bank where she kept a close eye on the local and global economy while also getting out and about to meeting clients of the bank and the people behind the businesses.
“When the CBI job came along it seemed like a natural fit. I’m really enjoying it because we have a great team and fantastic members who give me great heart in the Northern Ireland economy. They’re very much about putting their heads down, trying to create jobs and raise the living standards of everyone in Northern Ireland.”
These latter points are ones she feels the business world here doesn’t get enough credit for.
“Sometimes the private sector is undervalued and doesn’t get the reputation it deserves in terms of the amount of tax revenue which it generates which goes into schools and hospitals, as well as giving people jobs and a purpose in life.”
Under Angela’s leadership, that’s going to change, not just for the present generation but for generations in the future.
“I want to grow the Northern Ireland economy and make it an economic success, not just for us but for my children’s’ generation to make sure they are proud of a Northern Ireland which gives them opportunities which make them want to stay here.”
To do that takes a partnership with government, one which understands the business world.
“We have to to work with the policy makers and politicians to help them understand where the big bottlenecks are for business and how they can help it to be more productive and create more jobs.
“The Executive and CBI are after the same goal. It’s good for everyone to make the business world work.”
When it comes to Brexit, Angela, who, even before joining the CBI was against leaving the European Union, is pragmatic.
“We are where we are and we have to make the best of it. I’ll be content to see the Executive working together to make sure Northern Ireland gets the best deal in the upcoming negotiations.
“It’s disappointing when you go out and meet businesses who just want to grow but face challenges which have been created by political circumstance, but you can’t separate economics from politics. Around 82% of CBI members didn’t want to leave the EU but business faces challenges all the time and this is just another one.”
So where does she see the Northern Ireland economy in five years’ time?
“We have a vision of for a knowledge-intensive economy with high levels of productivity which is globally competitive, one that’s able to generate new sectors, new industries, new firms and with a lot of linkages to universities and other education establishments. I’m hoping we still have access to to European markets and we’re still developing strong collaboration with neighbours in the Republic as well as developing east/west links between the US and GB.
That’s quite a wishlist, but one which Angela won’t have any trouble achieving if past experience is anything to judge by.